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Synthetic Oil Complexities Made Simple

What do oil grades mean?

5w 30 Synthetic Oil: This is a multi-viscosity motor oil suitable for various weather conditions. The “5w” represents its low-temperature viscosity, indicating it flows like a 5-weight oil when cold. The “30” represents its high-temperature viscosity, meaning it maintains a thickness equivalent to a 30-weight oil when the engine is operating at its regular temperature.

5w 20 Synthetic Oil: Similar to 5w 30, this synthetic oil has a lower low-temperature viscosity (flows like a 5-weight oil) but is slightly thinner at high temperatures (equivalent to a 20-weight oil). It’s often used in newer vehicles for improved fuel efficiency.

0w40 Synthetic Oil: This oil is designed for extreme cold-start conditions (flows like a 0-weight oil when cold) while maintaining a thicker viscosity at high temperatures (equivalent to a 40-weight oil). It’s commonly used in high-performance and European vehicles.

75w90 Synthetic Gear Oil: This is a synthetic gear oil used in manual transmissions and differentials. The “75w” indicates its low-temperature viscosity (flows like a 75-weight oil when cold), and “90” represents its high-temperature viscosity.

5w-20 Synthetic Oil: Similar to 5w 20, this oil flows like a 5-weight oil when cold but maintains a slightly thinner viscosity at high temperatures (equivalent to a 20-weight oil). It’s commonly used in modern engines for fuel efficiency.

0w 30 Synthetic Oil: This oil is designed for cold weather and flows like a 0-weight oil at low temperatures while maintaining a slightly thicker viscosity than 0w 20 at high temperatures.

10w30 Synthetic Oil: This oil has a moderate low-temperature viscosity (flows like a 10-weight oil when cold) and maintains that viscosity at high temperatures. It’s suitable for a wide range of vehicles and conditions.

0w16 Synthetic Oil: Designed for extremely cold conditions, this oil flows like a 0-weight oil when cold but has a thicker viscosity at high temperatures than 0w 20 or 0w 30.

15w 40 Synthetic Diesel Oil: This oil is designed specifically for diesel engines. It flows like a 15-weight oil when cold and maintains that viscosity at high temperatures.

15w50 Synthetic Oil: Suitable for high-performance engines, this oil flows like a 15-weight oil when cold but has a thicker viscosity at high temperatures (equivalent to a 50-weight oil).

80w90 Synthetic Gear Oil: This synthetic gear oil flows like an 80-weight oil when cold and maintains that viscosity at high temperatures. It’s commonly used in trucks and SUVs.

When Gary’s does an oil change in Langley we always research what oil is best for your vehicle.

side view of engine

What is oil viscosity?

Viscosity, in the context of motor oil, is all about how smoothly it flows. The American Petroleum Institute (API), a prominent lubricant authority, has devised a system to grade motor oil viscosity, codified in the API 1509 standard. This grading system assesses how oil resists flow under two key temperature conditions: cold starts and high operating temperatures.

Low-temperature viscosity, represented by the number followed by “W” and a dash in the grade (e.g., 5W-30), is a critical factor. The “W” signifies “winter,” reflecting how the oil performs during chilly morning engine starts. A lower number indicates easier flow when the engine is cold.

Conversely, the high-temperature viscosity, indicated by the number after the dash, like in 5W-30, characterizes the oil’s thickness once the engine reaches its regular operating temperature. A lower number here suggests smoother oil flow through the engine when it’s hot.

Let’s take a look at how 5W-20, 5W-30, and 10W-30 motor oils compare. Both 5W-20 and 5W-30 oils have similar low-temperature viscosity, ensuring smooth flow during cold starts. However, as the engine warms up, 5W-20 oil provides less resistance compared to 5W-30. This reduced resistance enhances fuel efficiency, though it results in a thinner oil film that shields metal surfaces.

In the case of 5W-30 versus 10W-30, they behave similarly at regular engine operating temperatures. Yet, during cold starts, 5W-30 offers less resistance, facilitating easier engine starting compared to 10W-30. In essence, 5W-20 boasts lower viscosity and reduced resistance at both cold start-ups and standard engine operating temperatures.

Historically, older engines often necessitated higher viscosity oils like 20W-50, 10W-40, or 10W-30, thanks to their larger size and broader oil passages. However, modern engine design has seen engines shrink and oil pathways narrow. Consequently, motor oil viscosity has trended downward, with 5W-30 and 5W-20 now dominating the market, and 0W-20 emerging as a top choice. These lower viscosity oils are essential for smoothly navigating the tighter engine pathways, ensuring protection, and bolstering fuel efficiency.

engine oil labeled

What does synthetic oil lubricate?

The primary role of engine oil in a car’s internal combustion engine is to provide vital lubrication to its various components, ensuring smooth operation and reducing friction.

A significant portion of the oil is dedicated to lubricating the crankshaft area. The crankshaft is a crucial component that converts the reciprocating motion of the pistons into rotational motion, which ultimately drives the vehicle’s wheels. Proper lubrication here is essential to minimize wear and friction, allowing the engine to function efficiently.

Additionally, engine oil plays a vital role in lubricating the camshaft and rocker arms. In engines with a pushrod design, where the camshaft is located lower in the engine block, oil is pressurized and delivered to the valve lifters. These lifters, in turn, pump oil through hollow pushrods to reach and lubricate the rocker arm area. This lubrication is crucial for the smooth operation of the valve train, ensuring precise timing and movement of the engine’s valves.

For engines equipped with an overhead camshaft (OHC) design, the oil is directed to the camshaft and spilled onto the contact points between the cam lobes and valve stems. This lubrication is essential to reduce friction and wear in the valve train, which can impact engine performance and longevity.

In summary, engine oil in a car engine serves as a vital lubricant for key components such as the crankshaft, camshaft, rocker arms, valve lifters, and valve stems. Proper lubrication is essential to ensure smooth engine operation, reduce friction, and extend the life of the engine.

engine with oil black
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